Leeds HGV safety guru calls for nationwide rollout of London Direct Vision Standard to protect cyclists

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A Leeds-based HGV safety guru is urging the city's politicians to support the rollout of a "London law" in a bid to prevent deaths and the subsequent prosecution of drivers.

SM UK managing director Steve MacDonald, a specialist in safety systems for lorries, has made the call in the wake of Highway Code changes that put the burden of proof on those behind the wheel of a vehicle.

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The changes means drivers are now more vulnerable to prosecution if they turn left and inadvertently strike a cyclist who they could not see on their nearside, causing them a fatality or serious injury.

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SM UK managing director Steve MacDonald.SM UK managing director Steve MacDonald.
SM UK managing director Steve MacDonald.

Cyclists and pedestrians now have more road rights than ever before and the legal onus to spot their presence has shifted to lorry drivers. If they fail to do so and tragedy strikes, then the HGV driver risks life-changing prosecution unless they can prove to a court that it was not their fault.

Mr MacDonald said: "In Leeds, this has become even more serious as most lorries have a blind spot and with the council initiative to build more cycle lanes and promote the cycle to work scheme, turning left has become that much more hazardous."

The industry-standard HALO System created by Mr MacDonald's company has already been fitted to thousands of trucks in response to introduction of the Direct Vision Standard (DVS) permit scheme in London.

The system uses cameras, lights, sensors, SideScan motion detectors, audible alerts and a 4G recording facility to warn the driver that there is a vulnerable road user in their blind spot, reducing the risk of a fatal collision.

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In a recent study by Cambridge University, research across several fleet trucks indicated that Halo's motion detector - which can identify a cyclist or pedestrian beside the vehicle - reduced the number of incidents by 84 per cent.

Mr MacDonald added: "Why on earth this ‘DVS standard’ should be confined to London I don’t know. I want our local MP Hilary Benn and the leader of Leeds City Council, James Lewis, to support my calls and lobby for a nationwide roll-out of what is currently ‘London law'. It needs to happen for safety’s sake."

The DVS scheme, administered by Transport for London, gives vehicles a one to five star-rating that indicates how ‘visually safe’ a lorry is.

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It is only operational within the M25 but there is a £500 fine for HGV drivers entering the Capital without a special permit or a minimum one-star vehicle safety rating.

Alina Tuerk, a strategy and planning manager with TfL, said: "Our ideal outcome would be that as schemes get introduced at national and an international level, those schemes eventually converge with the London-based scheme."

Mr Benn and Coun Lewis were invited to comment.